Miami kept it’s defensive theme going on day two by looking at possibly the weakest area of the defense: the linebackers. After addressing the defensive front with Charles Harris, the edge rusher from Missouri, Miami moved to the next level of the defense, selecting Raekwon McMillan, the inside linebacker from Ohio State.
Miami was able to acquire Kiko Alonso last offseason in a trade with Philadelphia. Alonso became a solid addition for the Dolphins and in doing so, earned a contract extension from the Dolphins. They also added former Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons to the unit. They kept Koa Misi on a reduced deal. Misi and Timmons are stopgaps at this point in their careers. Miami desperately needed to add youth and athleticism to the unit and they set their sights on McMillan. Once again, I watched three different games for McMillan. Here’s what I saw.
- McMillan is a sure tackler. This has been a huge need for Miami for a long time. The fans as well as the front office have grown tired of watching linebackers miss tackles. That’s not a problem with McMillan. Once he gets his mitts on you, you are going down.
- He reads and reacts very well. Of the film I watched I never saw him take a single false step. This hints that McMillan has both good football intelligence and good instincts, another trait sorely missing from the linebacker unit.
- He showed good closing speed. He went from point A to point B quickly once he diagnosed the play.
- He is a strong hitter. He’s not the cruise missile that fellow rookie Reuben Foster is, but he can lay the wood to whomever is in front of him.
- He showed better than expected sideline-to-sideline speed. After watching the film with the knowledge of his timed combine speed, that makes sense.
- He was decent in coverage. He’s not going to run step for step with Gronk or McCoy. But he is smart in his zones and he’s not bad when he’s asked to cover in man.
- He’s young; only 20 years old. He has time to develop and plenty of prime years ahead of him.
- Despite better than average speed, he does show speed limitations at times.
- NFL quarterbacks will take advantage of him in man coverage early on. When he’s tight in coverage, he can maintain. However, if he’s not right on the offensive player, NFL players will create separation from him.
- Despite long arms (33”), he struggles to disengage from blocks. He needs to learn how to use that length to stack and shed. He stayed fairly clean against Clemson, but Wisconsin and Michigan blockers gave him trouble.
- He’s not great when having to change direction. He will need to anticipate certain routes when in coverage, such as a whip route.
- He’s not a great blitzer. He needs to learn a few moves to become a better blitzer.
- He’s young. He’s got a lot to learn before becoming the player the Dolphins and fans want him to be.
Let’s start with bad Raekwon.
McMillan is lined up as the middle linebacker on this play.
McMillan moves to the play, but an offensive lineman gets his hands on him.
The offensive lineman keeps his hands on McMillan. In this shot, you can see that McMillan has let the lineman get too far in on his body. He needs to use those long arms to keep the lineman off of him.
Here McMillan has finally gotten free, but is no longer a factor in this play. Wisconsin is an OL factory, so this could be close to what McMillan will see in the NFL. Now on the to good McMillan.
Against Clemson, the Buckeyes lined McMillan out wide to cover either a running back or receiver.
In this shot, you can see McMillan work to react to the short drop by the offensive player. This shows good instincts and coverage skills.
This is McMillan lined up as the sole linebacker behind the defensive line.
Deshaun Watson keeps this either by design or by decision. McMillan recognizes this and closes to make the play. He prevents Watson from making a big gain on this play. Miami always seems to give up big plays on QB scrambles like this. McMillan should help with this.
Here’s another play with McMillan in a nickel package.
McMillan reads this play immediately and moves into the gap to make the tackle against the running back. This play shows McMillan’s ability to read and react well.
McMillan meets the running back in the hole and stuffs him at the line of scrimmage. McMillan is a tackling machine and a tough hitter. This is one of the reasons Miami drafted him. There was no broken tackle or additional gain. The running back was hit and he went down. End of play.
Here is McMillan at the goal line.
Watson is rolling out to his right. McMillan, highlighted by the arrow, has quickly diagnosed the play and closing in on Watson.
McMillan closed and picked up the sack. This highlights all the great qualities about McMillan: instincts, diagnosing plays, closing speed, and finishing.
Here’s a good play of McMillan in man coverage.
The tight end here attempts to put a juke move on McMillan. It needs to be noted that this move was used against McMillan earlier in the game and the tight end got a big gain from it. But on this play, McMillan doesn’t bite and stays with the tight end.
McMillan stays with him and makes a play that causes an incompletion. Hopefully McMillan can build upon this and develop better coverage skills.
McMillan will have the chance to become the middle linebacker of the future for Miami, but first he will likely start outside. He will have a good chance to start at the SAM linebacker position over Koa Misi this season. I believe he will still be used in sub-packages to help in the run game due in part to his ability in zone coverage. Head coach Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Matt Burke will probably keep his man coverage responsibilities to a minimum early on. Eventually, he will move to the MIKE position and hopefully will become the anchor the Dolphins have sorely needed for years at that position.
All video courtesy of draftbreakdown.com.
Coming tomorrow: Miami’s third round pick Cordrea Tankersley.